How the jet stream affects Colorado’s climate
DENVER (KDVR) – The jet stream is a region of rapidly moving air in the upper part of our atmosphere. It earned the nickname after pilots discovered it on their first high altitude flights at the dawn of aviation, as it hampered or helped their flight speed.
Like a river, fighting it resulted in slower forward movement relative to the ground, while following it could amplify forward speed by 200 mph or more. In some cases today, with transcontinental airliners, subsonic planes that sail at around 550 mph could become “supersonic” over the ground at speeds approaching 750 mph. While this can cut the journey time by several hours, it is possible because, compared to the air package they fly in, they remain sub-sonic. Clearly this jet stream is a great feature for travel, but for the weather it’s even more amazing!
The image of this tweet, captured by the GOES-16 satellite and shared on Twitter by Stu Ostro, follows the path of high, wispy cirrus clouds. They mark off where the otherwise invisible jet stream is physically oriented. In this case, it flows over eastern Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. It serves as an example manual to show how the jet stream can speed up other things, like storm development! The bubbling clouds below are thunderstorms that become much more vigorous when introduced into these roaring winds aloft. Storms under the rapid air region become almost instantly violent with large hailstones, damaging gusts of wind and even tornadoes.
When there is an active jet stream over an area prepared for thunderstorms, it is like adding gasoline to a fire. It forces the upper part of a thunderstorm between 20,000 and 40,000 feet away from the storm base close to the ground. This process is called “upper level venting,” named after the vacuum effect it creates, forcing the air from below near the ground to rise even faster as it rushes to the lower pressure. altitude. Inside the storm this manifests as strong updrafts which make the storm structure even more stunning with vivid cloud formations as cumulonimbus clouds come in overload. It also throws raindrops high in the sky, producing hail. As these updrafts increase in strength, hailstones can grow larger than the size of baseball.
What the jet stream does for tornadoes
The winds of the jet stream pulling air from the ground also give it the raw power to accelerate said updrafts in rotating columns of air that can blow over 200 mph. Of course I’m talking about tornadoes and in the eastern plains of Colorado and Kansas over the past few days we’ve become all too familiar.
This tweet from Limon Sheriff vividly illustrates how effective the jet stream can be at pulling air high into a cloud, rotating in a vortex.
The impact of the jet stream on our next forecasts
As we catch a section of calm air, with the jet stream remaining safely through Colorado on Tuesday resulting in calm weather, we face another wave of jet stream energy on Wednesday. As predictable as the effects of a lighter fluid on a backyard grill, storms could turn severe in parts of eastern Colorado and the plains of Kansas and Nebraska.
The image above details the expected orientation of the jet stream on Wednesday afternoon. This includes a max jet stream over Northwest Colorado, which could increase the risk of a storm for the High Country.
While thunderstorms are more common on a daily basis in other parts of the country such as Florida, where you can often set your watch at the first thunderclap of afternoon summer storms, the jet stream usually stays at hundreds of kilometers to the north. of this region during the summer months. A stormy atmosphere devoid of jet stream energy can still endure huge rainmakers with sharp lightning, occasional hail between the size of a dime and a quarter, and even brief gusts of wind while a convective cloud collapses as the storm is in full swing. But the tornado makers and giant hail-making monsters of the Midwest, which last for hours, stay far north near the jet stream. In these southern regions, the worst extreme weather conditions often occur in winter, when the jet stream eventually plunges over the Gulf of Mexico as arctic air plunges south.
The next time you see that old jet stream map on the weather forecast during our storm season, you now know without even hearing it, that extreme weather conditions could result. Then it’s just a matter of gravity, and the relationships are direct in the stronger plane, the stronger the storms. In a way, we are all jetsetters because everything moves faster with the jet stream!
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